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  • Warren Eng

Why are more staff starting their own side business after office hours?

I got this question from a friend this week. There is now a trend of people starting their own cafes, selling stuff on facebook, or just doing freelance work. How does that affect the company? Is it due to higher income opportunity? Not enough benefits?


No. The main issue is BOREDOM. Because I for one, have been there, done that.

People have a desire to contribute, serve and create value. We have a need to find meaning and purpose. If this is not satisfied in their workplace, they hear the entrepreneurial voice calling out to them: “Do something! Don’t get stuck here all your life!”. I attribute this largely to the bureaucracy of corporations. Staff are just expected to follow orders, or perform their duties well. Ideas are usually created and passed down from the top instead of tapping into the social capital of the group. This goes back all the way to the issue of Trust, where the believe that everyone can be innovative and add on new ideas to change or grow the business should be weaved into the culture fabrics of the corporate intentionally, instead of waiting for the one lucky break from the top.


When these needs for innovation and creativity are not fulfilled, staff will look for other areas outside their companies to get the fulfillment. These can definitely interfere with their day jobs if staff are not conscious enough. I have seen people dosing off, losing energy or getting distracted because all they care about now is the action and fun they can jump into when they finish work after 6pm. 


The solution is not to stop this trend, but to embrace it. Corporates should have the trust and courage to foster entrepreneurship within the organization: Corporate Entrepreneurship. Staff should be encouraged to think and act more like entrepreneurs within the organization, being always curious with questions, looking out for problems to solve, opportunities to explore, and ideas to offer. When avenues to learn, grow, create, share and serve are opened, the needs to contribute and find meaningful work are fulfilled. The staff and the company’s Purpose is now aligned.


I see this as a win-win solution. In return, companies can get more agile and disruptive as staff steps up and offer their best. They show up in their entrepreneurial suit and tackle challenges with gusto. Gmail from Google was created when Google enforces that 20% of the staff work time must be allocated to a project outside their job scope. This takes trust, which is a two-way traffic. How can we engage and empower our staff more? How can we trust more? Are we ready to jump?




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